WWE Studios Smacks Down Traditional Mobile App Games

Driving mobile conversions is often a fight that marketers fail to win. But production company WWE Studios, a division of wrestling entertainment brand WWE, came out a champion by generating both sales and engagement through its first-ever mobile Web game. 

WWE Studios launched the game, “Scooby-Doo! and the Race to WrestleMania,” in March 2014 to coincide with the debut of its new DVD Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery. Although Scooby-Doo and John Cena may not appear to be a likely duo, Julie Tustin, VP of marketing for WWE Studios, says that the cartoon character and wrestling superstar both appeal to families and adults who remember Scooby-Doo from their childhood days. Like these television figures, mobile gaming also resonates with children and adults, alike. To put it into perspective, Rob Grossberg, CEO of mobile Web game developer TreSensa Inc, claims that one third of the time consumers spend on their smart devices is dedicated to gaming.

“It’s not just teenage boys playing games anymore,” Grossberg says. “It’s everyone.”

So WWE Studios decided to partner with Warner Bros. Animation and TreSensa to produce a mobile Web game of its own that would drive brand engagement and DVD sales.

Here’s how the game works: Scooby-Doo and the gang are driving to WrestleMania when a ghostly bear starts chasing them. To prevent the monster from catching Scooby and his pals, players must steer the famous Mystery Machine away from road obstacles and collect clues that will help them advance to the next level. Each level features different scenes and wrestlers from the movie. Once players advance or lose the game, they can click to watch the trailer for the Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery movie. Players can also click a link on the end screen of the mobile game (or at the top of the desktop version) that takes them to an Amazon page where they can buy the film.

Unlike traditional app games that provide consumers with “snackable” forms of entertainment during their morning commutes or coffee pickups, mobile Web games engage users for longer periods of time, Grossberg explains. The games, which can be played on any mobile device or desktop, integrate marketing messages right into the user experience and across multiple levels to prolong engagement. And because they’re built using HTML5, Grossberg adds, it’s easy for marketers to update the content and share it across various platforms. Plus, brands can enable consumers to purchase right in the game. But the real benefit, according to WWE’s Tustin, is the seamless experience it creates for users.

“For us, [the game] really accomplished the goal of being able to tap and play and have a much longer engagement with the property…. There was [also] an ability to purchase the DVD off of the game. That drives physical purchases and that’s not something that you can do with a downloadable game,” Tustin says.  

To lure people into playing the game, WWE Studios promoted it on its website and social media channels. The production company also encouraged people to try the game at WrestleMania—or what Tustin refers to as the brand’s Super Bowl—which occurred two weeks after the game’s launch. WWE Studios offered tablets to fans waiting in line for wrestlers’ autographs, she says, to keep them engaged and get them to play the game on their own devices. Fans could also share the link to the game on social media, and Warner Bros. promoted the game on its respective channels, as well.

The game locked in some heavy results for WWE Studios. “Scooby-Doo! and the Race to WrestleMania” garnered more than one million plays and WWE Studios sold out of the DVD on Amazon within the first week. Although Tustin admits that she can’t attribute the movie purchases to the mobile game with 100% certainty, the number of plays and distribution of the game make her confident in its performance.

Of course, the process wasn’t all fun and games. WWE Studios had to ensure that the game aligned with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)—a regulation that prohibits companies from collecting data from children under 13 years old without parental consent. To make certain that the company was compliant, WWE Studios created a “buffer page” that notified players when they were leaving the game to make a purchase on Amazon.

“That was definitely a priority of ours and continues to be in all things that we do as a film studio,” Tustin says.

Because of the game’s success, WWE Studios is in discussions with Warner Bros. Animation to launch another mobile Web game called “The Flintstones Stone Age Smackdown,” Tustin says. 

As for marketers looking to tap into the mobile Web game arena, Tustin recommends three things: Plan out the timing of the game’s development and launch, have a clear call-to-action, and make sure the user experience is a smooth one.

“It’s important for marketers to make engagement for fans as seamless as possible and as easy as possible by rethinking engagement in terms of game play over an advertisement,” she says. “You’re going to find that your numbers in the end are going to be more robust.”

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